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Free lunches could be served up for SCCS

SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. — The Social Circle Board of Education is looking into a program that could see free lunches provided for all students within Social Circle City Schools.

The Community Eligibility Program provides free meals to students within any school system that meets a certain level of need, based on both the number of students qualifying for free and reduced lunches under normal federal need standards, as well as Medicaid coverage within the district population.

Melinda Marshall, director of school nutrition for SCCS, said the district has reached that point, if the board is willing to take the plunge.

“In 2023, the minimum was reduced from 40 percent to 25 percent,” Marshall said of the number of students who have to qualify under normal standards of need. “Then they began to allow Medicaid as well, which increases the number of students locally who would help us qualify for CES coverage.”

Marshall said it would reduce student debt and increase participation in school meals.

“It would eliminate unpaid meal balances,” Marshall said. “And it would definitely increase participation, much as COVID did when meals were free during the pandemic.”

Marshall said if the district did choose to enroll in the CEP, it could still choose to withdraw at any time if objections arose.

“CEP is good for four years but we can opt out of it at any point,” Marshall said.

The SCBOE will let the proposal lay on the table for 30 days and vote on it at the next meeting in May.

In other school system news, the board also increased tuition for out-of-district students who pay to attend the city school system. Tuition costs will increase by $582 to an annual fee of $3,966.

Finally, work continues apace on the new Social Circle Elementary School campus on the Social Circle Parkway and officials hope to have the site ready for an official groundbreaking soon. Currently, a tentative date of May 28 has been set for the groundbreaking, with parents, families, local officials and others invited out at 6 p.m. to formally dig the first shovels of dirt on the site, which is still aiming for a fall 2025 opening date.